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by Frank Schnittger Sun Nov 19th, 2017 at 02:15:34 AM EST

Leo Varadker has been upsetting a few people in the UK:
The SUN Editorial

THE SUN SAYS Ireland's naive young prime minister should shut his gob on Brexit and grow up.

Leo Varadkar may not like Brexit but he needs to accept it's happening

We are Ireland's biggest trading partner and nearest neighbour.

The effects of a "hard Brexit" could be catastrophic.

Yet Varadkar's rookie diplomacy, puerile insults and threats to veto trade negotiations are bringing it ever closer.

We can only assume his arrogance stems from a delusion that he can ­single-handedly stop Brexit.

Indeed Ireland's political establishment clearly believes we can be forced to vote the "right" way at a second referendum, just as they made their citizens do over the EU Lisbon Treaty they initially rejected.

It is not going to happen.

David Davis rightly names France and Germany as the roadblocks to progress, even as other EU nations want a deal.

He should not overlook the showboating obstinacy of Ireland's Varadkar, a man increasingly out of his depth.

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With friends like these...

by Frank Schnittger Tue Nov 7th, 2017 at 05:52:00 PM EST

A correspondent points me to two interesting perspectives on Brexit. The first is an American perspective by Steven Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, who has just completed four years as London bureau chief. The second is a twitter storm by Jonathan Lis on his discussions with unnamed Brussels staff, purporting to give an informed Brussels perspective on how the Brexit negotiations are going. Both authors can be viewed as broadly sympathetic to the UK cause, and yet this is what they have to say:

Steven Erlanger: No One Knows What Britain Is Anymore

Many Britons see their country as a brave galleon, banners waving, cannons firing, trumpets blaring. That is how the country's voluble foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, likes to describe it.

But Britain is now but a modest-size ship on the global ocean. Having voted to leave the European Union, it is unmoored, heading to nowhere, while on deck, fire has broken out and the captain -- poor Theresa May -- is lashed to the mast, without the authority to decide whether to turn to port or to starboard, let alone do what one imagines she knows would be best, which is to turn around and head back to shore.

I've lived and worked for nine years in Britain, first during the Thatcher years and then again for the last four politically chaotic ones. While much poorer in the 1980s, Britain mattered internationally. Now, with Brexit, it seems to be embracing an introverted irrelevance.

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Catalonia?

by Frank Schnittger Sat Oct 28th, 2017 at 04:55:07 PM EST

As someone distrustful of extreme nationalism and committed to the European ideal as the best way we have yet found of maintaining peace and prosperity in Europe, I am utterly conflicted by the drive for Catalonian independence.

On the one hand I am committed to the European principle of subsidiarity - that decisions effecting peoples lives should be made with their maximum involvement and as close as possible to their own communities.

I therefore have no problem with negotiations for greater Catalonian autonomy, if Catalonians generally are unhappy with decisions made on their behalf by the central government in Madrid.

But granting Catalonia full sovereignty is an altogether different matter. It implies that Catalonia will have its own army and distinct relationships with the EU and all foreign states. On what basis could it be granted?

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The Brexit effect

by Frank Schnittger Wed Oct 25th, 2017 at 09:43:20 PM EST

Worst case Brexit scenario could see Irish GDP fall by 9%, says EU report

A new study into the effects of Brexit on UK and EU trade, particularly agricultural trade, warns that Ireland's GDP could be harder hit than the UK.

Its main scenario analysis, based on a hard Brexit, foresees a fall in Irish GDP of 3.4 per cent, compared to a fall of 2.4 per cent in the UK. This is broadly in line with the predictions of other recent studies.

The report predicts that Irish agricultural exports to the rest of the world could fall by more than two thirds (71 per cent, or $6.5 billion).

The Brexit effect on the GDP of the whole of the EU27 would be of the order of only minus 0.3 per cent. The report, "EU-UK agricultural trade: State of play and possible impacts of Brexit", was written by economists for the European Parliament's agriculture committee.

The report even suggests the fall in Irish GDP could be as high as 9.4 per cent in the most malign scenario studied, if "non-tariff mechanisms" combine with new World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs to hamper Irish agricultural exports gain access to the rest of the EU and world.

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How a no deal Brexit could happen

by Frank Schnittger Tue Oct 17th, 2017 at 06:49:41 PM EST

Helen and others have expressed scepticism as to whether a "no deal" Brexit could actually happen in reality. Surely the leaders of the UK and EU couldn't be so incompetent or irresponsible? I have been gaming out the possible outcomes in my mind for quite some time now. The most plausible "no deal" scenario runs something like this:

The Brexit negotiations plod on for almost two years sometimes making progress and sometimes getting stuck. Some specific areas are almost put to bed, but as always, "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed". The negotiators home in on the outstanding areas of disagreement where the gap between the two sides seems bridgeable. Other areas, where the gap appears impossible to resolve are abandoned altogether. The ambition to craft a deal covering all areas of major mutual interest is ditched in favour of agreeing on what we can, while we can. "Nice to haves" are abandoned in favour of focusing on the absolute "must haves" of any deal.  

Keeping some form of "Blue skies" agreement in operation is vital if planes are to be able to fly between the UK and EU. Mutual recognition of regulations and their enforcement is vital if non-tariff barriers are not going to stymie efforts to keep trade and just-in-time multi-national production processes flowing.

Deadlines are set and pass without full agreement.

The EU27 leaders are called in to knock negotiators heads together. Everyone gets nervous as Brexit day end March 2019 approaches. The window of opportunity to ratify any deal done before Brexit gets narrower and narrower. Negotiators are keenly aware that a Brexit deal requires weighted majority support on the EU Council. They can afford to upset one major and a few smaller EU members, but any more than that and a "blocking minority" on the Council can stymie any agreement.

But worse than that, if no deal is agreed by March 2019, unanimity between the EU27 is required to agree an extension of the A50 deadline or any deal thereafter. Some EU27 members have already signalled their unhappiness with aspects of the deal that is emerging. Whatever chance there is of winning a weighted majority vote on the Council, the chances of gaining unanimous support are slim to non-existent. Huge pressure is exerted on the UK to agree something - anything - before the March deadline if any sort of deal is to be reached.

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Jumping off the Brexit Cliff

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 16th, 2017 at 10:26:38 AM EST

Many here at the European Tribune have been predicting a hard Brexit almost from day one, convinced that the UK government was being almost totally unrealistic in what it expected to achieve out of the negotiations.  Ministers seemed to be negotiating with themselves and each other as to what they really wanted, with any consideration of why the EU might actually want to concede such things barely an afterthought, if that.

Conscious that the Brexit negotiations were going to be difficult and complex, Theresa May quickly came up with another cliche to rival her famous "Brexit means Brexit" mantra.  Now it was "No deal is better than a bad deal" in an effort to put the wind up the EU negotiators and force concessions. Apparently Germany was supposed to act as the adult in the room and bring both sides to their senses and force a deal at the denouement.

But the gradual hardening of the UK negotiating position has had the opposite effect to what was perhaps intended. Instead of softening their position the EU side has looked on with increasing incredulity at the shifting sands across the Dover straits. Could the UK really be serious? Trade talks before a financial settlement is reached? An invisible Irish border despite the UK leaving the Single Market and Customs Union? EU citizens in the UK being used as bargaining chips and threatened with deportation despite their importance to the UK economy? A Transition deal with no quid pro quo?

But what perhaps no-one has anticipated was that a hard Brexit might actually become the UK policy objective. Political commentators have moved slowly from an initial position where a deal was seen as inevitable to one where the risks of a 'no deal' Brexit were seen to increase, if only because of the incompetence of the negotiators. Now Chris Johns in the Irish Times has come to the conclusion that far from being a result of a negotiating failure, a "Cliff Edge" Brexit is becoming the desired outcome for many on the UK side. Far from falling off a cliff, the UK may be getting ready to jump.

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LQD: Totes awky momo

by Frank Schnittger Thu Oct 12th, 2017 at 03:53:20 PM EST

When focusing on the political and economic aspects of Brexit, it is easy to forget the human drama it represents for many people. Here is an extract from an Irish UK immigrant's story:

What's it like observing an entire country having a nervous breakdown? Those of us living in the now utterly divided UK know the answer. It's like being a lodger in a house with a couple who have decided to get divorced but can't afford to separate. It's lying awake at night listening to bickering in the next room. It's sitting opposite both parties at the breakfast table, smiling sympathetically at the eye-rolls each are throwing behind the other's back. And it's all the while silently knowing that any expression of one's own discomfort will be dismissed with the words "Well, if you hate it here so much, why don't you just leave?". Totes awks.

Now imagine that one of the reasons for the divorce is that the couple could not agree on whether to take in lodgers in the future. Naturally, in that situation your mere presence becomes an acute reminder of their failure to agree. It becomes impossible for them to see you beyond the uncomfortable feelings you bring. All you are is a lower lip, quivering as you warble, "Is this is about that time I got you out of bed at 2am to let me in? Because if it is that won't happen again. I can change, I swear."

This is what being a migrant in Brexit Britain is like. Surrounded by wounded divorcée landlords, hoping you don't say the wrong thing to the wrong person. You find yourself appraising everyone you meet to discern which camp they fall into and thus the ground on which you can safely tread.

The Brexiteer is the party in the dispute who admits that the income from lodgers is required to cover the mortgage on the house but who wants to be able to apply more quality control to the kind of lodgers they allow in. They also have a strong suspicion that one of the lodgers has been helping themselves to their jar of Marmite and won't be taken for a fool.

The Remainers are the ones drilling you at length about the profile of the UK in the outside world. To fully understand their position one must remember that the British are the people who invented manners and etiquette, and so in their eyes to treat a guest badly is unforgivable. One cannot underestimate how utterly wretched they feel at the poor impression this whole debacle must be giving those looking on. I've had a very positive experience of the country, but I still have to reach to find enough good things to say that will quell their fear that they are now regarded internationally as complete dumbasses.

Comments >> (30 comments)

A Terrible Beauty is Born in Catalonia

by Frank Schnittger Mon Oct 2nd, 2017 at 10:46:09 AM EST

When the 1916 rising against British rule in Ireland took place, many of the defeated insurgents were booed on the streets of Dublin as they were being led to imprisonment: Such was the popular anger at the damage their ill-planned adventure had caused to many lives and the city's infrastructure.

And then the British started to execute some of the leaders, and the tide of public opinion turned.

It is doubtful whether Catalonian independence had the support of a majority of Catalonians prior to the referendum on the First of October 2017. But the sight of peaceful citizens seeking to vote being baton charged, beaten and shot with rubber bullets by riot police will change all of that.

Despite deploying 15,000 police mostly from outside Catalonia and injuring over 800 people, the Spanish state managed to close only about 300 out of 2,300 polling stations and could not prevent 2.3 Million people from casting their vote - a 42% turnout - despite confiscating many ballot boxes. Many Irish referenda have been passed with less.

90% voted for independence, a resounding response to the violence.

In one ill-considered act the Spanish state has ensured its own disintegration. Catalonia will now declare independence.  If the Rajoy government seizes control and organises new elections, they will be won by separatists. In the words of W.B. Yeats all is "changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born."

Comments >> (36 comments)

A Tale of many Referendums

by Frank Schnittger Sat Sep 30th, 2017 at 10:38:06 AM EST

As the Catalonia referendum crisis reaches it's apotheosis the Irish Government has proposed to hold no fewer than seven referendums in the next couple of years which has even friendly commentators questioning their necessity. More hostile commentators regard the plan as nothing more than a stunt pulled by a weak minority Government trying to prove it has vision and durability.

But some of the proposed referenda are very important and likely to prove extremely controversial and difficult to pass. The proposal to remove or amend the Eight Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances is one such issue. There is a broad consensus that access to abortion in Ireland needs to be liberalised, but little consensus on precisely to what degree.

The Eight Amendment was originally passed in 1983 (with a 54% turnout) at the height of the Catholic Church's powers and guaranteed "the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child". It has proved controversial then and ever since, but conservative forces will not give up without a fight.

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Hosting the 2023 Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Tue Sep 26th, 2017 at 01:26:24 PM EST

Ireland is competing with France and South Africa for the right to host the 2023 Rugby World cup. It's an important issue for Ireland because the economic benefit could be as much as €1.5 Billion, and it provides an opportunity for North South cooperation post Brexit. Rugby is one of the few major activities that are organised on an all island basis with very little of the sectarian or Governmental divisions seen in other areas.

Gerry Thornley has a piece up in the Irish Times looking at the voting blocs and how they might vote in deciding who gets the next Rugby World Cup. Update [2017-9-30 19:22:51 by Frank Schnittger]: He has now also added a piece on the Pros and Cons of the three bids

If the IRFU have done their homework and lobbied all the right people, then Ireland should be capable of attracting 22 votes and an overall majority even on the first round ballot. However that assumes Ireland wins the recommendation of the technical committee and that our competitors haven't bribed the relevant officials and Unions in some of the swing vote members (as routinely happens with the Olympics and FIFA World Cup).

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2034

by Frank Schnittger Sun Sep 10th, 2017 at 07:39:10 PM EST

Nobody had really expected Brexit to have quite the consequences it eventually had. For some it was simply an expression of a latent English nationalism that had been triumphant in the Second World War, and which had been overwhelmed by the peace which followed. Somehow the EU didn't quite give adequate expression to the enormity of British success in that war, or compensate adequately for the loss of empire which followed.

For others it was simply a domestic response to a domestic problem. Immigration was changing the shape of English life. Whole towns and cities were becoming dominated by an immigrant culture that might have had many merits, but it simply wasn't English. Ethnically Indian and Pakistani immigrants might speak with posh English accents and play cricket. Footballers and athletes of African origin might dominate the Premier League and bring Olympic success. But it wasn't quite the same thing as having Ethel or Timothy next door make it to the big time.

For still others Brexit was a rebellion against an establishment which had delivered years of austerity; at declining public services and rising prices for privatised public utilities. A protest at the bankers and financiers of London who grew wealthy while every other region of the United Kingdom declined. A rejection of the globalisation which seemed to benefit the third world more than the first. A resentment that so many decisions seemed to be made by faceless and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. A sense of powerlessness in the face of a world being moved by foreign forces, beyond English control.

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The Third Tribe of Ulster

by Frank Schnittger Sat Sep 2nd, 2017 at 09:56:33 AM EST

Newton Emerson asks us to remember the Third Tribe of Ulster - one that is largely of Scottish descent, Presbyterian beliefs, and prone to dreaming of an Independent Ulster rather than one tied to either England or Ireland. Politically it is represented by the Paisleyite Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), rather than the previously dominant and anglophile Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and holds the English (perfidious Albion) in almost as much suspicion as do Irish Nationalists, formerly represented mostly by the Social Democrat and Labour Party (SDLP) and now by Sinn Fein.

Historically, he certainly has a point, but there is a another more modern third tribe his analysis ignores: This third, and possibly fastest growing tribe in N. Ireland today is neither Scottish, English, nor exclusively Irish; neither Roman Catholic, Presbyterian nor Anglican. It is neither Unionist nor nationalist. It is secular, disillusioned with tribal politics, and just wants to get on with life, make a decent living, and not be bothered by all the religious and political fanatics who seek to divide and conquer.

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Labour grows up?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 27th, 2017 at 12:26:45 PM EST

At last the British Labour party has decided to do what oppositions are supposed to do and put clear blue water between its policy on Brexit and that of the Tories:

Labour is committing itself to continued UK membership of the EU single market and customs union during a transition period following the official Brexit date of March 2019.

In a dramatic policy shift, the party's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has announced that a Labour government would abide by "the same basic terms" of Britain's current EU membership during the transition, which some observers expect to last as long as four or five years.

And in an article for the Observer, he made clear that the party is open to the possibility of negotiating new single market and customs union terms which the UK could sign up to on a permanent basis.

At June's general election, Labour promised to seek to "retain the benefits" of the single market and customs union as part of a "jobs-first" Brexit, but leader Jeremy Corbyn has so far stopped short of committing to continued membership beyond the date of Brexit.

Read more... (57 comments, 850 words in story)

Sterling devaluation: Cause and effect

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 20th, 2017 at 08:57:59 PM EST

My central expectation, repeated in numerous blog posts and comments since the referendum, is that we will see a hard Brexit (defined as one without a substantive Brexit or post Brexit trade deal) accompanied by at least a 30% devaluation of Sterling relative to the Euro.  

Faced with such a devaluation EU policy makers will have little option but to impose tariffs on imports from the UK, if only to preserve the competitiveness of the EU's own industries. If the UK retaliates with tariffs of its own, a hard Brexit will result in a trade war, even worse than the worst case scenario of "no deal" Brexit Pundits, all of whom seem to expect standard WTO tariffs to kick in at that stage.

My point has always been that WTO tariffs have to be negotiated, and there simply isn't any automatic process by which some default set of tariffs will kick in once the UK leaves the EU.

But the 30% relative devaluation figure was always a "finger in the air" guess. It now looks as if I might have been too conservative in my prognostication. Sterling has already declined from 77P to the Euro to 91P to the Euro - a devaluation of 18% since the referendum. Morgan Stanley are now predicting that the euro will trade at £1.02 by the end of the first quarter of 2018 - a total devaluation of 32.5% - and that is before we even know the exact shape that Brexit will take...

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Women's Rugby World Cup

by Frank Schnittger Fri Aug 18th, 2017 at 05:07:18 PM EST


The Women's Rugby World Cup is taking place in Ireland at the moment with the initial group stages just completed in Dublin, and the ranking matches, Semi Finals and Finals scheduled for Belfast over the next week. England, with a semi-professional squad, are the holders and favourites, but France have also been investing in their squad, New Zealand are always strong, and the USA have been improving rapidly.

Women's international rugby is an emerging sport with participation, funding and standards improving rapidly from a very low base. Standards are as yet very uneven around the world with many very one-sided encounters in this world cup, the worst of which was a 121-0 drubbing of Hong Kong by New Zealand.

Ireland won the Women's Six Nations Championship with a grand slam in 2013 and again in 2015 and finished fourth in the 2014 Women's world Cup but have struggled to beat Australia and Japan in their first two matches this time around. They have just lost to France 21-5 in a very good match watched by over three million people on TV in France alone.

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Now you see it, now you don't

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 16th, 2017 at 01:36:29 PM EST

The UK's Brexit secretary David Davis Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Leo Varadker's pre-emptive shot across the bows appears to have had the desired effect of scaring the British off any notions of re-imposing border controls on the island of Ireland. However in forcing the UK to discard discredited notions of a frictionless tech border he has done no more than inspire another bout of "having our cake and eating it" thinking on the part of the UK Government. Somehow the UK is going to leave the EU, Single Market and Custom's Union without imposing any sort of border controls within Ireland at all at all...

Clearly, the UK government wants to keep the Irish Government on side while also keeping the DUP sweet.  The result is that it is effectively seeking to cast the EU in the role of the bad boy seeking to re-impose hard border controls within Ireland. Trusted trader status for Irish companies and exemptions for small cross border traders may seem like music to the ears of business and political leaders, North and south, but why should the rest of the EU tolerate it?

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Booman should run for Office

by Frank Schnittger Wed Aug 9th, 2017 at 12:54:10 PM EST

[Cross-posted from the Booman Tribune]

With Booman off on his holidays to consider his future, I thought I might contribute an outside perspective which he may, or may not, find of interest.  All of us have benefited greatly from his analyses here, and the platform he provides for further discussion and debate. For me his is the go to site for insights on US political developments. But maybe the time has come for Booman to consider entering the fray directly, rather than just being an informed commentator and bystander.

By chance I recently found myself waiting in a surgery idly looking through the first few pages of Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope". In it he describes his somewhat crazy decision to run for the Senate as a more or less no hope outsider. He justified it to his long suffering wife as a one last shot at making a difference in politics. She reluctantly agreed but didn't promise him her vote. She wanted a greater contribution from him towards family life and raising their kids.

However the dysfunctionality he describes in US public life has been amplified many times since the election of Donald Trump. If ever there was a time to take responsibility and attempt to lead the US out of the swamp it has entered, it is now. The long odds really aren't the issue. It is the principle that matters. So why should Booman run for office?

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Brexit balance of power swings from UK to Ireland

by Frank Schnittger Tue Aug 8th, 2017 at 07:09:39 PM EST

Fintan O'Toole's "Brexiteers' foolishness gives Ireland control" has neatly summarised what I have been saying over a number of posts in the last few months:

Yes, those really are vague pink glimmers in the early morning sky. Reality is dawning on the Brexiteers. Once, they were going to walk away from the European Union in March 2019, whistling Rule Britannia and greeting queues of foreign supplicants begging for trade deals. Now, they are hoping to cling on until June 2022. They know they are going over a cliff and realise that it is better to climb down slowly than to plunge off the top.

But this climbdown also creates a crucial weakness - one that explains why the Irish Government's tone has changed so radically.

To understand this new weakness, we have to recall that there were two possible scenarios in which the Irish Government had very little power. One was that the UK would simply walk away from the EU without any deal, the car-crash Brexit for which British prime minister Theresa May's old mantra, "No deal is better than a bad deal", was meant to be the overture. If that happened, Ireland was completely impotent.

The other possible scenario was the straightforward one set out in article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK and the EU would negotiate a full exit deal by March 2019. In this case, Ireland would have very little power either. Even if the deal was a betrayal of our interests, we could not veto it.

The deal would have to be ratified by the European Parliament and then by the European Council. But, crucially, the council has to accept the deal only by a qualified majority. In both bodies, therefore, Ireland could easily be out-voted.

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Leo Varadkar Slams UK on Brexit

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 29th, 2017 at 10:33:12 AM EST

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney once famously characterised the polite Irish society approach to difficult or awkward topics as "whatever you say, say nothing" and Irish politicians have, in the main, practised that down to a fine art. Even sports coaches and players are quick to praise their opponents, lest any derogatory comments be pinned on the opposing dressing-room walls as motivational material for the battle ahead. "They think you're shite" the opposition coach would say: "Just look at what they said about you", pointing to the offending article pinned to the wall. "Now prove them wrong!".

One of the reasons Leo Varadkar stood out from a pack of fairly mediocre ministers to win the Fine Gael leadership and prime ministership was his willingness to buck the trend and come out with the occasional, usually well calibrated and orchestrated "outspoken comment" to demonstrate a fresh and open approach to politics. He would only be saying, of course, what many had been saying quietly for quite some time, but couldn't quite bring themselves to say publicly, for fear of causing offence...

Now he's gone done it again with Brexit: Defiant Varadkar tells British: we won't design Brexit border for you. Taoiseach says `if anyone should be angry, it's us.'

"What we're not going to do is to design a border for the Brexiteers because they're the ones who want a border. It's up to them to say what it is, say how it would work and first of all convince their own people, their own voters that this is actually a good idea," Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar said there was a political border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, but not an economic one.

"As far as this Government is concerned there shouldn't be an economic border. We don't want one," he said.

"It's the UK, it's Britain that has decided to leave and if they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for borders of the future and all of that that's up to them.

"We're not going to be doing that work for them because we don't think there should be an economic border at all. That is our position. It is our position in negotiations with the British Government and it's the very clear position that we have when we engage with the task force that is negotiating on our behalf with the UK."

Mr Varadkar said an economic border would not be in the interests of the Republic, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom, "and we're not going to be helping them to design some sort of border that we don't believe should exist in the first place".

---<snip>---

Meanwhile, asked if he was frustrated with the British approach to Brexit talks, Mr Varadkar said: "If anyone should be angry, it's us, quite frankly."

"We have an agreement. We signed up to the single European Act. We joined the EC alongside the United Kingdom. We have a Good Friday Agreement and part of the Good Friday Agreement...talks about working together and continuing to do so within the context of the EU."


Read more... (94 comments, 1232 words in story)

Whistling in the wind...

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jul 17th, 2017 at 11:41:15 PM EST

Participating, as I do, in various discussion forums outside of the European tribune, I am always struck by how hostile Brexiteers are to the EU project as a whole, and then, in the next breath, still seem to expect the EU to cut them a generous deal in the Brexit talks.

As a general rule, if you are hoping to get a good deal from a negotiating adversary, it is not a good idea to keep telling them how much you hate them and wish them ill. Yet Theresa May has recently promoted a Minister who said that the EU has failed on its own terms and should be "torn down".

Increasingly, it seems, Brexiteers are also seeking to use Ireland as a Trojan horse with which to divide the EU and weaken the EU negotiating position. On the one hand you have Nigel Farage arguing that Ireland would be far better off throwing it's lot in with the UK and leaving the EU, and on the other hand the UK appears to be hoping to use Ireland's dependency on UK trade as a means to force the EU to concede generous free trade terms to the UK post Brexit.

So what is it the UK wants? Ireland leaving the EU with the UK to reinforce Brexit, or Ireland within the EU to weaken the EU's resolve to drive a hard bargain? Either way, the Irish Government has shown no sign of deviating from the common EU27 negotiating position.

Boris Johnson recently told the Commons that the EU can "go whistle" if it thought the UK were going to pay what he considered an extortionate exit payment - to which Michel Barnier replied that he could hear no whistling, merely the sound of a clock ticking...

Meanwhile normally reticent and discreet Irish Ministers express increasing frustration at the lack of a coherent plan for Brexit coming from UK Ministers, making planning for Brexit almost impossible.

This soap opera is going to run and run, and we're only into season 1!

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